I watched George Floyd get murdered by police this week. I watched it on the nightly news. I watched as the officers with him did nothing but stare. I watched as his pleas for help went unanswered by bystanders who were willing to film his murder but not stop it. I watched in disbelief.
I watched as all the officers were immediately fired but not arrested. I watched politicians talk about how they want to take their time on the investigation so they get this right.
George Floyd has no more time. He has no more time because Derek Chauvin took his time pressing his knee against the carotid artery Floyd’s his neck while he was handcuffed and laying on his stomach. I watched as he twisted his leg to apply more pressure as the dying man begged him to stop. This wasn’t an accidental shooting. This wasn’t a high stress scenario where a mistake was made. This was a uniformed officer slowly and deliberately killing a man in broad daylight.
Everyone who could have done something, didn’t.
Good men did nothing and I’ve watched Minneapolis burn for three straight days as a result.
Try as I might, the only thing I can come up with is they earned what they’re getting.
First responders are people who run toward a crisis when everyone else is running away. Police are usually the tip of that spear. I know these things because I started my professional career as a police officer. It’s a hard job. It’s soul sucking at times. You see things most people can barely imagine. To add further insult, the pay is usually garbage. That said, an officer who is professional and genuinely tries to protect and serve their community is an asset beyond measure for that community. A cop like Chauvin is an abomination and a liability to the profession.
It’s hard to get hired at a professional police department. There are considerable academic, psychological and physical tests to get through before you’re even considered. This is how it should be. Because with the power invested in that position, the brass should want to weed out anyone who would abuse that power or lose control in stressful situations. Those who do the job well should be rewarded. Those who can’t should be shown the door as quickly as possible.
Positional asphyxiation is a real danger for anyone handcuffed and on their stomach. Trained officers will handcuff someone and then sit them upright. Or at least should. We were all trained on this. We were all told that if you put someone facedown in the back of your patrol car they run the risk of suffocating. And anyone who has any basic self defense training knows that if you cut off blood to the brain by applying pressure to the carotid artery, you will cause the person to lose consciousness. To do both is unthinkable.
What should have happened is one of the other officers yanking him forcefully off of George Floyd. He should have been removed from the scene. And then later behind a warehouse two or three of his co-workers should have beaten the shit out of him for what he did and tarnishing his and their badges. He should have showed back up to work with his face swollen bruised and simply saying he had an accident at home. Sometimes violence is a solution to problems.
What should have happened is a civilian watching should have tackled Chauvin. They probably would have gotten arrested. They may have even been shot. But, George Floyd would have had more time to breathe.
I’m confident that there are plenty of psychologists out there who can give clinical explanations on why people just watch and don’t react when they see something like this. But, right now it’s not explanations that we need. What we need is for good and honorable people to act in the moment. Life doesn’t happen through a screen. Nobody care what you, I or anybody else thinks. They only care about what we do when those split seconds matter.
Because now another American citizen is dead and an American city burns because people did nothing. Anger has built and built because too many people have done nothing. Too many have said they want to take their time. They need to think about it. They need to make sure they get it right. Meanwhile too many people can’t breathe and that pressure builds. Desperation builds and builds and too many people act surprised when it explodes.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years going to the places and hearing the stories of desperate people. What too many people don’t realize is that desperate people will do desperate things. If you don’t understand why people are reacting the way they are it’s because you don’t really know what it feels like to be desperate. One of the most celebrated acts of revolution in American history is the Boston Tea party. It was an act of vandalism. Nothing more. I’m sure some very fine people lost money because of it. But, it got the attention of people who repeatedly refused to listen.
If you’re surprised at what you’re seeing right now it’s probably because you haven’t really been paying attention. And more importantly, haven’t done much to help when it mattered. When good men do nothing in the face of evil, everyone pays the price.